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Yorktown feeling Eagle Ford Shale effects too

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
Oct. 29, 2011 at 5:29 a.m.

Houston-based Troy Construction started laying pipelines for the oil shale industry three months ago. It employs about 400 employees in Yorktown. Troy superintendent Bernie Drane said most of the employees live outside the Crossroads. Finding accommodations for the influx of new workers is a continuing challenge for the town.

YORKTOWN - Oil and gas activity along the Eagle Ford Shale is also impacting some of the area's smaller towns, including Yorktown.

The town of about 2,000, known for its more than 50-year-old Western Days festival, is a 17-mile drive on state Highway 72 west of the DeWitt County seat of Cuero.

"It's a good thing for Yorktown," city administrator Robert Mendez said during a recent meeting of the Friends of the Yorktown Library. "Along with the city council and mayor, we are looking at ways to get our city to prosper. It's a positive outlook."

Mendez worked with the city for more than 17 years before being named interim city administrator in December. He was appointed permanent city administrator in June.

He said several new businesses have sprung up due to the oil field activity including recreational vehicle parks, eating establishments, oil field-related companies and two new motels are also in the planning stages.

The city-owned seven-space RV park has been full for two years and expansion is being considered. An RV park being built just outside the city limits could be annexed, Mendez said.

At the Wildcat Cafe, memorabilia from Yorktown High School days gone by as well as spirit paraphernalia for current Wildcat and Kitty Cat ball games can be found inside.

Owner Laura Billings moved to the cafe's present site in September 2010. She has been in the restaurant business in Yorktown since 2005.

A sign outside the 342 E. Main St. location welcomes oil field workers and "pipeliners."

"My business has jumped dramatically since the oil field activity began," Billings said. "It's been very, very good."

Billings said she has also enjoyed getting to know the workers and is on a first name basis with many of them.

"We get quite a few repeat customers," she said. "They are nice and polite. Really great guys. We enjoy having them in our restaurant."

Mendez pointed toward increases in city revenue as a sign the activity was having a positive impact.

The city has seen a 35 percent increase in sales tax, a 15 percent increase in property tax and a 30 percent increase in water sales over 2010, he said.

Mendez emphasized that the water sales were based on water usage and the city was not selling water in bulk to the oil companies.

"Our main focus is to try to benefit from everything going on around us," Mendez said.


The increased activity has also meant increased traffic on the city's streets and some of the problems that can include.

"We end up with people from all over the country," said Police Chief Paul Campos. "They come into our city and spend money, but it also sometimes comes with a price."

Campos, who has been police chief in Yorktown since August 1999, said there has been a slight increase in family disturbance calls since the influx of oil field workers, but major crimes have not increased.

"With progress you have negatives and positives. We're doing everything we can to make things as safe as we can," said the police chief.

Campos said the police department has been upgraded with 24/7 patrols.

"We have beefed up patrols in the neighborhoods and put up signs on our small roads to try to keep some of these big trucks off them," Campos said. "The roads aren't capable of handling the weight."

Changes in traffic light functions has helped with traffic flow, Campos said.

"We have been working traffic very closely. We don't have a quota, but we are writing more citations," said the police chief.

Campos said traffic tickets aren't a big money maker, but are issued for safety reasons.

"We want to get the attention of these truck drivers that they need to have a little courtesy and respect for the citizens of Yorktown," Campos said.

"We respect the work being done in the oil field. We're happy they are here and we all are going to benefit from it."



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